Flooring 101 Installing Hardwood Basics — DIYdiva

Flooring 101 Installing Hardwood Basics - DIYdiva

The Tool

There are a number of tools that installing a floor requires, but this is the big one:

The guys at Lowes once tried to tell my aunt that there was no such thing as a floor nailer that hooked up to an air compressor, but let me tell you something, there is. Its at the Home Depot rental place. (I love Lowes, but seriously dudes .)

Heres how the nailer works. It hooks up to the compressor, the nail comes out of the hole by the notch there when you whack the top of it with a nailer, which is absolutely as much fun as it sounds like.

It installs the nail through the tongue of a board at an angle so that the next board can still slide over the tongue. Like this:

(If that graphic looks familiar its because its just like installing a wood ceiling. but upside down.)


This is my bathroom, and it needs a floor. And like, a toilet. but first things first, okay?

Heres what I used to give it one:

  • Hardwood underlayment
  • Stapler
  • Engineered hardwood flooring
  • Miter saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Pneumatic floor nailer
  • Pneumatic stapler

This is how I did it:

Step 1 Subfloor & Underlayment

In newer construction subfloor is usually 1/2-5/8 plywood that is nailed down to the joists. You can attach your wood flooring directly to this, but not to particle board which is different than plywood.

The underlayment provides protection for the hardwood against moisture (small joke there since Im living dangerously and installing this in a bathroom, but just go with it). It will also add some cushioning to the floor and help prevent squeaks.

I used a hand stapler to fasten it. This particular underlayment is probably better for laminate, but its what The HD had so I used it. Id be a little more concerned about getting something specifically for hardwood on a larger area.

Step 2: The Dreaded Beginning

Its not dreaded for no reason, it took me two hours to get the first two boards in, and only a two more hours to finish the rest of the floor.

It starts with the laying out your floor. For maximum strength and durability the flooring should run perpendicular to the floor joists. (Check out which way they run in the basement or by sticking your head in the crawl space.)

Also, youll likely have several boxes of flooring and particularly if its pre-finished you should mix them all up ahead of time, or risk having different colored stripes in your floor.

One of my boxes was leftover from when I installed the kitchen (6-ish years ago) and the other was new which posed another problem since the tongues werent exactly the same size, but nothing a hammer and little determination couldnt fix.

The first row had to be cut to fit around the tub in my case, but most times it will just be straight.

You wont be able to use the nailer on the first row because there isnt enough room, so I used an air-stapler to nail through the tongues at a 45, and my finish nailer to secure the side closest to the tub.

Heres how I stapled through the tongue:

You get to see this hand shot because I started with the wood directly up against the tub which was a bad idea for the squeaks, so I pulled it out and put those cardboard shims in.

While I went tight against the tub because there will be no trim there, you should leave a 1/2 gap or more around the walls (it will get covered with baseboard) to leave room for expansion.

Youll also have to use another nailer or hand nail with your final boards of the room as well.

Step 3: Rows 2 through Infinity

As youre laying the boards youll want to work in the direction of the tongues. This sounds like something biblical, but it just means tongues out from right to left in this example.

Those boards to not just slide nicely into place over the previous row, which is while youll need a Banger.

I use small scrap pieces. The objective is to fit it over the tongue and hammer the board into place so that the tongue stays intact for the next piece to slide over. Boy, I just used the word tongue a lot.

If youre using wider boards like these you may be able to use the floor nailer by the second row. Nails should be spaced every 6-8 the rule of thumb is put the nails closer together the wider your boards are.

When you come to the end, I find the easiest thing to do is flip the next piece around and measure it, then cut with the miter saw to fit it into place.

The flipping around part is key so that you get the grove on the right side of the board.

Also, you want to start each row with a different sized board. having seams that have too much of a pattern drives me nuts, so Im always pretty aware of where I want my first board to end and where the subsequent seams will be.

Step 4: Special Cuts

You may or may not run into this around stairs or if youre crazy like me, in the bathroom.

I found that making a template with some spare underlayment was the easiest thing to ensure a nice tight cut, which I made using the jigsaw.

And heres the after.

Youll want to be pretty careful with pre-finished boards, but if you do end up dinging the sides hammering a particularly difficult board in place (not that I would know) those wood crayons do wonders.

Also? First finished floor in the new house, so I totally did a little happy dance on this when it was done.

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